TORONTO (U SPORTS) – The Carleton Ravens look to equal one of the most prestigious Canadian university basketball records this week, while the Saskatchewan Huskies shoot for a second straight national banner, as the ArcelorMittal Dofasco U SPORTS Men's and Women's Final 8 tournaments tip off on Thursday.
The national tournaments - hosted by Dalhousie Tigers for the first time since 1987, and the women's tournament at the University of Victoria for the first time since 1993 - get under way Thursday at the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax, N.S. and the CARSA Performance Gym, culminating next Sunday, with the men's final at 2:00 p.m. Atlantic Time (1:00 p.m. Eastern) and the women's championship at 1:00 p.m. Pacific (4:00 p.m. Eastern), live on Sportsnet 360 and SN Now. Saturday's semifinals will also be broadcast live on Sportsnet 360 and SN Now (Men's: 1 p.m. & 3:30 p.m. Atlantic, Women's: 2:00 p.m. & 4:00 p.m. Pacific).
Looking to add to their record collection of 12 W.P. McGee Trophy titles and one shy of Victoria's streak of seven straight U SPORTS banners (1980-1986), the Ravens earned the second seed for the 2017 tourney behind the Ryerson Rams for the second straight year.
Rounding out the draw are the No. 3 McGill Redmen (RSEQ champions), No. 4 Alberta Golden Bears (Canada West champs), No. 5 Dalhousie Tigers (AUS champions/hosts), No. 6 Manitoba Bisons (Canada West finalists), No. 7 Calgary Dinos (Canada West bronze medalists/At-large berth) and No. 8 Saint Mary's Huskies (AUS finalists). A full schedule is available below.
No. 1 Ryerson Rams (OUA Champions)
2016 result: Bronze
Off Rank: 4th (88.7)
Def Rank: 6th (67.6)
Points per game: Adika Peter-McNeilly (19.2)
Rebounds per game: Adika Peter-McNeilly (7.1)
Assists per game: Myles Charvis (3.9)
3PT%: Myles Charvis (.431)
No.2 Carleton Ravens (OUA Finalists)
2016 Result: Gold
National titles: 2003-2007, 2009, 2011-2016
Off Rank: 2nd (92.0)
Def Rank: 1st (58.6)
Points per game: Connor Wood (19.2)
Rebounds per game: Eddie Ekiyor (6.4)
Assists per game: Kaza Kajami-Keane (5.2)
3PT%: Stanley Mayambo (.565)
The Rams who went 17-2 in the regular season, narrowly advanced with 76-75 win over Ottawa in the OUA semifinal, before snapping Carleton's undefeated season in an 86-79 victory in Saturday's Wilson Cup final. The win claimed back-to-back OUA banners for Ryerson to go along with the No.1 seed. Carleton, meanwhile, reached the final by defeating Brock 89-64.
"It's always special to win a championship at the conference level. It's something we will cherish," said Ryerson head coach Roy Rana. "Our focus has shifted now to the bigger prize and we are thankful to have an opportunity. Our preparation will remain the same and the work has already begun."
"The team is excited to be heading back to Halifax since the hosts always put on a great event," said Carleton head coach Dave Smart. "The Maritimers love Canadian university basketball and they are some of best fans in the country. We hope to be playing well when we arrive out east."
No.3 McGill Redmen (RSEQ Champions)
2016 result: Lost in consolation semifinal
Off Rank: 29th (74.8)
Def Rank: 2nd (60.3)
Points per game: Jenning Leung (14.2)
Rebounds per game: François Bourque (7.9)
Assists per game: Dele Ogundokun (3.6)
3PT%: Kendrick Jolin (.485)
The Redmen (13-3 regular season) won their fourth RSEQ title in five years, eliminating Laval in the semifinal with a 59-48 win, before topping UQAM 82-65 in the conference championship.
"We've had a good season, have gotten better throughout the year and we're playing our best as we head out to Halifax," said McGill bench boss David DeAveiro, the RSEQ coach of the year. "We're known for our defence, we're a defensive-minded team that likes to make our opponent take tough shots and to make it difficult for them."
No.4 Alberta Golden Bears (Canada West Champions)
National titles: 1994, 1995, 2002
Off Rank: 12th (82.5)
Def Rank: 13th (74.0)
Points per game: Mamadou Gueye (15.9)
Rebounds per game: Brody Clarke (7.1)
Assists per game: Austin Waddoups (3.7)
3PT%: Austin Waddoups (.468)
No. 5 Dalhousie Tigers (AUS Champions, Host)
2016 result: 4th
Off Rank: 15th (81.8)
Def Rank: 9th (71.0)
Points per game: Kashrell Lawrence (15.2)
Rebounds per game: Kashrell Lawrence (6.8)
Assists per game: Ritchie Kanza Mata (5.9)
3PT%: Alex Carson (.560)
No.6 Manitoba Bisons (Canada West Finalists)
National titles: 1976
Off Rank: 11th (82.8)
Def Rank: 30th (79.2)
Points per game: Justus Alleyn (17.4)
Rebounds per game: Keith Omoerah (8.7)
Assists per game: Ilarion Bonhomme (4.8)
3PT%: Justus Alleyn (.425)
No.7 Calgary Dinos (Canada West Bronze Medallists)
2016 result: 2nd
Off Rank: 3rd (89.8)
Def Rank: 14th (75.6)
Points per game: Thomas Cooper (22.7)
Rebounds per game: Thomas Cooper (7.5)
Assists per game: David Kapinga (4.1)
3PT%: David Kapinga (.481)
Alberta (14-6) put an end to Manitoba's (12-8) cinderella run through the Canada West playoffs, capturing the school's 12th title and first since 2014 with a convincing 92-73 win. The Bisons, appearing in their first U SPORTS national tournament since 1985, had previously swept through nationally-ranked Calgary in the semifinals and UBC in the quarters. The Dinos (16-4) earned the wild-card entry following a 111-106 overtime win in the bronze medal game against Saskatchewan.
"It's been a roller coaster season for us as we have had some great road wins, and some inconsistent performances in losses," said Alberta head coach Barnaby Craddock. "We feel like the last few games we have started to have everything coming together, and are excited to play the best teams in the country at nationals in Halifax. We know all the games at nationals will be tough, and it's a challenge we have been building up to all season long."
"I have incredible memories of competing at the U SPORTS Championship in Halifax over 20 years ago," said Manitoba head coach Kirby Schepp. "The city is an incredible host for this event and I am excited for our guys get a similar experience this year. McGill has been one of the top programs in the country for several years now. Coach DeAverio has built a powerhouse team that has become a mainstay of the national tournament. We know it will be a tough first round match up but our guys have tremendous confidence right now and we are really looking forward to the challenge."
"It's a great opportunity for our team, for the fifth-year guys who have been there before," said Calgary head coach Dan Vanhooren of earning the at-large berth. "Our comfort level will be better this time compared to last year. It's great for our program with the young guys we have and the guys returning - it's a great opportunity for us.
"Anytime you can play Carleton is great for a program. They're clearly the best team in the country, and when you have the opportunity to play them it's a good thing. We're going to enjoy the challenge – if I could play them every day I would play them every day to get better."
No.8 Saint Mary's Huskies (AUS Finalists)
Off Rank: 9th (85.5)
Def Rank: 35th (81.0)
Points per game: Marquis Clayton (19.0)
Rebounds per game: Achuil Lual (9.1)
Assists per game: Marquis Clayton (3.9)
3PT%: Tristan Arthurs (.478)
Host Dalhousie (16-4) booked their spot in the Final 8 through the front door, three-peating as AUS champions after a 63-60 win over Saint Mary's (13-7). Along the way the Tigers also knocked off Acadia, while the Huskies defeated StFX in the quarter-finals and UNB in the semis.
"If I could summarize the season in one word, it would have to be 'pride,'" said AUS Coach of the Year and Dalhousie bench boss Rick Plato. "Our squad has played with the pride of a champion through a very difficult exhibition schedule, all the way through to the AUS Championship…As hosts of this year's Final 8, I can promise you we will play every game with the determination and ferocity of Tigers. We have been preparing for this opportunity since last year's semifinal loss to Carleton and I am confident that the best is yet to come."
"We are looking forward to the opportunity to compete for a national championship, and are excited to see where we stack up against the best in the country," said Saint Mary's head coach Jonah Taussig. "Ryerson is a terrific team and we will need to be at our best on Thursday night."
SCHEDULE & RESULTS (all times AT)
Wednesday, March 8
5:30 p.m. 2017 U SPORTS Men's Basketball All-Canadian Awards
Thursday, March 9
12:00 p.m. Quarter-final 1: No.2 Carleton vs. No.7 Calgary (TV1 webcast)
2 p.m. Quarter-final 2: No.3 McGill vs. No.6 Manitoba (TV1 webcast)
6 p.m. Quarter-final 3: No.1 Ryerson vs. No.8 Saint Mary's (TV1 webcast)
8 p.m. Quarter-final 4: No.4 Alberta vs. No.5 Dalhousie (TV1 webcast)